I am ashamed.  Mortified, even.  I may not be able to bear the embarrassment.

hammer-802298_1920I paid the fine today.  I only hope no one finds out.  If word gets out that I’ve been fined, I may have to leave town.

You know, it has just occurred to me that the use of that word, fine, is an odd thing.

The judge brings his gavel down as he intones, “The fine will be $150; you may pay the clerk.  Next case, please!”

“How are you doing?”  “Why, I’m just fine, thanks!”

There is a fine line between cruelty and discipline.

The local restaurant only serves gourmet food and fine wine.

When we play certain pieces of music through, the last time a repeat is taken, we end the piece at the finé mark.  It actually says fine right above the music staff. Yes, I do know that there is an accent on the e in that usage, but you will see that it makes no difference at all.  The word is still fine.

What a lot of things we use that word for.  They don’t all seem to mean the same thing, either.  One has to wonder if the word even comes from the same place for each usage.  I wondered too, so I did a little research.

“Finé: circa 1300, from Old French fin ‘perfected, of highest quality;’ Also from Latin finis, ‘end, limit,’ hence, ‘acme, peak, height.'”

They all come from the same root word.  When something is perfect, it is complete.  Completion is the limit to how far a thing can go.  The best, the top, the height of achievement.  Oh, and the fine we pay in court is the end of the matter.  There is no other punishment to follow, the subject is closed.


A smile comes to my face as I remember Azalee Hammerly, more than forty years ago, noticing that word in her copy of the choral octavo we were reading through.  There weren’t many real musicians among the rag-tag volunteer choir at the little red brick church, but they gave it their all.

Our long-suffering director had done just that–suffered–through our initial reading of the new piece.  It was awful!  No—worse than that!  Horrendous.  Mrs. Hammerly wasn’t really trying to be a comedienne, but it didn’t matter.

The sound of our voices had hardly died away, when she leaned over to Helen Wagner and whispered, not very quietly, “You see, we did fine!  It says so right at the end there!”

The whole choir roared with laughter.

We knew the truth.  It wasn’t fine.  We just reached the end.  Given what had preceded the end, it seemed like being finished was a good thing to all of us.


I still like the word.  I like the idea of completion.  I’m looking forward to perfection.  Okay, maybe not perfection in the way that we understand it, but the day will come when all my deeds are written in the book of my life.  The limit will be reached and nothing else, either good or bad, can be added.

As I thought about all these things tonight, another memory leapt to my mind.  In that same old red brick church, all those years ago, I remember being taught about the Son of God on the cross.  As He paid the penalty for my crimes against God, He spoke one last time.  (John 19:30)


Yeah, it’s a bit of a paraphrase from what you may be used to hearing. But, that is what He said.  Read it how you will; try to change the meaning if you wish.  It means each of them individually and all of them at once.

He said that it was finished, and the final act accomplished.  He said that the penalty was paid, never to be levied again.  He said that it was the absolute best that could be done, a work that needed no improvement.  (Hebrews 10:10-14)


Whew!  I’m not sure how we got way down here.  I only wanted to come clean about my crime and punishment.  Still, it’s nice to know that I’ll not have to face any further penalty.  In more ways than just this little matter.

What’s that?  What was the fine for?

Oh, I kept a library book for an extra day.  The Lovely Lady is returning it for me tomorrow.  I laid a dollar atop the book so she could clear my besmirched name with the other librarians where she works.

It will be the end of the affair.

Everything will be just fine.







“There are two kinds of people; those who finish what they started and so on.”
(Robert Byrne ~ American author & billiard instructor)

“No one has a problem with the first mile of a journey.  Even an infant could do fine for a while.  But it isn’t the start that matters.  It’s the finish line.”
(from The Flinch by Julien Smith ~ American author/public speaker)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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